Computers can provide a layer of separation that can be helpful to interacting with autistic kids, consequently they have become a popular tool for one on one therapy sessions. The keyboard, though, can be too confusing and difficult to use and can itself become an obstacle to communication. And since autistic kids tend to be visual learners, a new project that uses a different type of keyboard is helping kids learn to communicate with their families and therapists. The orbiTouch from Blue Orb (Maitland, Florida) is a keyboard, originally developed for people with bad hands , that sports two controllers that, with the help of a color chart, let the user select which letter is to be typed.
The National Science Foundation reports on Project Blue Skies:
With Project Blue Skies, the hardware is matched to lesson plans, training aids such as games, and assessment tools. The two-grip device is ideal for people with autism because it is less distracting than a keyboard and does not require finger motion.
In addition, the various letter and number combinations are created by matching color schemes indicated on the two grips, so the training curriculum matches well to a game-like environment.
Teachers guide the students and monitor their progress, ultimately helping the kids better communicate with their families. While the primary goal of Project Blue Skies is to help people with autism develop stronger social skills, McAlindon [Pete McAlindon of BlueOrb] is working with partners to start integrating standard coursework into the program.
Press release: Removing the Barriers of Autism
Link: Project Blue Skies
Product page: orbiTouch Keyless Ergonomic Keyboard